EU urges speed-up of sea defence works

-warns that Guyana risks losing funds

The European Union (EU) has called for the speeding up of sea-defence works here, while warning that Guyana can lose funding for projects it has been supporting.

The EU, which has been funding various projects here in various sectors, including sugar, sea-defence and aviation, said in a release yesterday that recently accredited Ambassador Robert Kopecky has called on contractor BK International—a major player in the sea defence sector—to accelerate works being undertaken.

He said that delays over the past two years are caused mainly by a “certain lack of capacity in managing the large portfolio” of the contract, while adding that inadequate provision of resources has also been a factor in the delay.

Attempts by this newspaper to reach Works Minister Robeson Benn yesterday for comment were futile.

According to the EU, its partners here, both in the public and private sector, should do the utmost to ensure immediate acceleration of works. Otherwise, EU noted, “there is a risk of loss of considerable amounts of funds which would not be in the spirit of the so far very good and friendly cooperation’.

The EU noted that recently several visits were undertaken for provisional acceptance by its officers and representatives of relevant agencies. Among the areas which were inspected were works done at Kitty, Coldingen, Melanie Damishana, Uitvlugt, Aurora and Zeelandia, among others.

According to the EU, while the works at most locations were in an acceptable state which would lead to provisional acceptance, works at some locations could not be taken over, and according to the EU, this could result in the enforcement of liquidated damages.

The EU has been the largest funder of projects in the sea defence sector since the mid-1970s, providing a total of $22B in grants. Additionally, the EU is funding the ongoing mangrove restoration programme via the Global Climate Change Alliance at a value of $1.2B.

A source within the works Ministry told this newspaper yesterday that the engineering capacity of the Ministry has been an issue, which he noted needed to be addressed. He said that while the agency have trained engineers under its employ, their ability to overlook the larger projects, such as those undertaken by BK International, was lacking in several areas.

He said that several factors have also influenced the completion of works, including the movement of machinery, release of mobilization support funding as well as bad weather conditions.

In addition, he noted too that the issuance of multiple contracts to a contractor may also be cited as a factor, since, according to him, mobilization of machine and labour has had affects on works getting off the ground for projects.

In October, Kopecky’s predecessor Geert Heikens noted that he was generally satisfied with projects being funded by the EU. He mentioned then that the EU was expected to sign a second sea defence programme with the government for in the vicinity of 15 million Euros in budget support.

The programme related to the maintenance of the sea defence.

Heikens said that the EU would continue to assist the mangrove project.

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